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How to deal with noisy neighbors

Learn when and how to say something to them (and your landlord, if need be).

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The question:
I have really noisy neighbors who are driving me crazy. I hear all their personal conversations and parties, and know way too much about their sex lives. Plus they argue a lot and slam the front door really loud. I pay a lot of rent and resent having to deal with this. Any suggestions?

As the saying goes, good fences make good neighbors. For many cosmopolitans, unfortunately, those proverbial fences are thin walls and creaky floors that broadcast every groan, thump or raised voice from strangers who share the same address. We pay a premium for every square foot of privacy, yet unwittingly share plumbing, critters and private moments. Still, many of us know next to nothing about the lives, much less the names, of the people we pass in halls daily. It’s a strange and uninvited intimacy.

Your frustrations are completely understandable. We expect our homes to be sanctuaries from the hustle and bustle of city life — which is all the more reason we get so bent out of shape by unwelcome disturbances. But you need not suffer interminably. Aside from sound-proofing, there are several things you can do to restore your sanity:

1.Assess the situation. Acting on anger, like retaliating or slamming your door, may only aggravate the situation, and could lead them to believe that you’re the problem. Unlike passengers on a packed train, these aren’t pushy strangers you’ll never see again. Until one of you moves, you’re stuck with them. White noise machines can help buffer conversational intrusion. If the noise is louder and ongoing, you may want to collect your thoughts or make a list of your complaints. If you’re awoken in the middle of the night, knocking on the wall may be just enough to remind your neighbor that the walls are thin.

2.Politely discuss the noise levels with your neighbors (for safety purposes, you may want to take someone else along). Be factual: Tell them what you can hear and suggest they keep noise levels down late at night. If possible, find humor in the situation (a friend received a letter from her neighbor stating: “We respect people’s right to a healthy sex life, but you are keeping our kids up at night”). Your neighbors may be unaware and will want to maintain their privacy. They may also be able to hear you too, which may affect how you choose to modulate your volume. See if you can come up with a mutually agreeable solution. Write down the date when you confronted your neighbors, as you may need it if the issue isn’t resolved.

3.If you receive a negative response, or no response at all, supply them with a copy of your lease. Most leases contain a clause stating your right to “quiet enjoyment.” You might also consider writing your neighbors a letter informing them that if they don’t quiet down, you will be notifying the landlord. A letter signed by other neighbors who don’t appreciate the noise could be additionally effective.

4.If necessary, contact your landlord. Inform him or her of what you’ve done thus far and supply them with a copy of your letter, if you wrote one. You’d be amazed at how much quieter people become if they fear eviction. Calling the police is also an option if the noise is “disturbing the peace,” especially if you suspect domestic violence.

— This column is not intended to be used as a substitute for a private consultation with a mental health professional, nor is this therapist to be held liable for any actions taken as a result of this column. If you have any concerns related to this column, make an appointment with a licensed mental health professional. Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author.

 
 
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